After poverty and the threat of starvation forced a mother of six to surrender four of her children to the care of the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare, Kerala's social and political machinery worked overtime to ensure that the family have a roof above their heads and the woman, Sreedevi, a job.
The family consisting of father, mother and six children - the eldest child seven and the youngest, three months old - lived in a shanty on railway purambokke land at Kaithamukku in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district. According to the council officials who visited the family, Sreedevi told them that one of the children used to eat mud due to hunger.
The incident sparked outrage on Monday, prompting swift action on the part of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
The Council has taken responsibility for the four older children - two boys, the eldest aged seven, and two girls - and shifted them to the council's rescue shelter. Sreedevi has given written consent for the transfer. The Council also obtained the permission of the Child Welfare Committee under the Juvenile Justice Department on Monday.
The two youngest children - one aged one-and-a-half and the other, three months old - have been left in the care of Sreedevi. They were moved to a flat under the care of the Corporation.
Mayor K. Sreekumar, who visited the family, said the Corporation was offering Sreedevi a temporary cleaning job at the Corporation right away, from December 3. She will be earning a daily wage of Rs 650.
The four elder children, who are now under the care of the Council, were taken to the SAT hospital here for medical examination. The two eldest will begin their schooling shortly, Council secretary Deepak S P informed.
The family, who previously did not have a ration card, was also given one in haste.
The plight of the family was revealed on Saturday, November 30, after local people alerted the council by dialling 1517, the toll-free number of the council's Thanal project, which assists children in trouble. Thanal state coordinator Bahuleyan Nair K. and social workers who visited the family on Saturday evening found a shanty with tarpaulin and flex sheets for walls. There was no food, only hot water boiling on a stove.
Sreedevi, in her consent letter to the council, said that the children would die of hunger unless the council took over their responsibility, Deepak said. According to the her petition, the children's father, a daily wage labourer, is an alcohol addict. Council officials said he was abusive towards the children.